Why one step at a time is the real secret to success?

One step at a time! You have probably heard this phase many times or variations of it such as: “Rome was not built in a day” or “The longest journey starts with the first step” or “Slow and steady wins the race.” It serves as a useful reminder for us not to try to “eat the elephant in one bite” or that “nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished overnight.” It may just be one of those rules we learn when we are so young that it has become part of the fabric of growing up along with fairy tales and other pithy sayings. Yet, if we all grow up with this rule embedded in our minds, then why do so many people think they can accomplish things overnight. Fame, fortune, friends, romance and countless material goods are pursued through a filter of instant gratification. We want these things and we want them now.

Have you ever bought and made “instant pudding?” Dr. Edward W. Deming (a noted quality improvement Guru) used this phase (instant pudding) to refer to his observation that managers always wanted new programs to work overnight. The program of the month reflected their ongoing search for some new program that could produce “instant pudding.” Some managers realize that they will need commitment and time to bring about change but many managers never seem to weary of their search for some new program that will instantly lower costs and improve quality.

Today, we find not only managers but an entire entertainment industry that depicts instant overnight success. This focus on American Idols and instant fame has the negative effect of allowing people to forget that hard work, practice and dedication are the chief ingredients for success. Instead, too many people seek success through lotteries, gambling, lawsuits and freebies that will require little effort or time. If Dr. Deming were alive, I am sure he would say our entire culture is obsessed with “instant pudding.” Is it any wonder, we need to keep reminding ourselves that one step at a time is the way to success. How soon we forget though. Walter Payton, one of the hardest working running backs in NFL history was asked what he would do over if he could play again and he replied “I would work harder.” Walter was also one of the most successful running backs in NFL history.

What have you put aside because it will take too long? Do you avoid certain goals because you don’t “have the time” or because the goals seem too far away? What could be different for you if you approached your life and goals “one step at a time?”

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